Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s blog: update on teaching and learning

June 16th, 2020

In this week’s update I’d like to focus on progress made around teaching and the student experience, with particular emphasis on the new academic year starting in September.

I hope you’ve had a chance to review the letter from the Vice-Chancellor that has now gone out to all of our returning students and applicants.

We continue to follow UK Government guidelines but inevitably there remains a high degree of uncertainty around our physical return to campus and ‘normal operations’. What is also clear is that the current social distancing rules significantly restrict the numbers of people we can safely have on campus at any one time.

With that in mind we’ve been as open as possible about what students can expect in September, from our plans regarding accommodation and the ways we will have to move around safely on campus to how courses will involve a blend of online and face-to-face teaching in smaller groups.

Making these adjustments will inevitably have a knock-on effect on timetabling. While we are exploring every inch of our campus to give us as much teaching space as possible we also have to make exceptional decisions around the academic calendar.

In March we had to make some emergency changes to the end of the academic year 2019-20 so our students could progress or graduate. Now, as we move into recovery mode, we need to enable flexibility once more into our teaching and assessment plans for the future.

You should all now have been briefed by Heads of School or Line Manager and received an email from me detailing how we will address this need by extending the dates of Academic Year 2020-21. The extra weeks will be achieved by shortening the Christmas and Easter holiday periods for students to three weeks, and by removing the January exam period.

This is not designed to make our academic staff work harder and longer but to provide extra time for teaching and assessment while we are still required to implement social distancing measures. It  allows for greater flexibility and for each school to use this time as needed.

We are also looking at how we might alter the makeup of a teaching day and week in order to give us the capacity to deliver the 2020-21 curriculum.

Extended service support will also be required from some professional services but again this should not entail additional working time for individuals.

The health and safety of all of our staff and students is at the heart of all of our planning and must continue to be as we make these difficult decisions. We need to ensure that a Nottingham degree, taught in these exceptional circumstances, continues to hold the same value and quality as it always has, meeting the requirements of our Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies and that our student experience is the best it can be.

In the coming weeks I hope to make announcements regarding where we will be prioritising face to face teaching on campus ahead of September and reassurance about how our recovery plans are in place to meet expectations of new and returning students including those set to receive their A-level results later this summer.

With future students in mind this week you will start to see news of Virtually Nottingham, our online open day consisting of subject sessions and live lectures, which aim to give applicants a real taste of our unique university experience.

We’ll be showcasing more than 100 mini lectures to people around the world, a true open day without borders, and while they will be beamed live to applicants they will also be recorded for anyone to view after the event. I encourage all staff and students to browse the breadth of subjects on offer, be reminded of our beautiful campuses, and feel proud of the world-class experience we offer at Nottingham.

Professor Andy Long, FREng,
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor

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